How Does Walmart Track Shoplifting? Exploring The Methods Behind The Scenes

how does walmart track shoplifting

Walmart is one of the largest retailers in the world, with over 11,500 stores across 27 countries. With such a large presence, it is no surprise that shoplifting is a major concern for Walmart and its security team. But how does Walmart track shoplifting? This article will explore the methods Walmart employs to detect and deter shoplifting. From sophisticated surveillance technology to plainclothes security officers, Walmart employs a variety of techniques to identify and apprehend shoplifters. We’ll take a closer look at the different methods Walmart uses to detect shoplifting and how they are implemented in stores across the world.

How Does Walmart Track Shoplifting?

Walmart takes shoplifting very seriously and has a variety of strategies and measures in place to track and prevent it. One of the most common methods they use is video surveillance. Walmart stores have multiple CCTV cameras set up throughout the store, so they can keep an eye on customers and detect any suspicious activity. These cameras are monitored by security personnel who are trained to spot potential shoplifters.

Overview Of Shoplifting?

  • Shoplifting, also known as retail theft, is the act of stealing goods from a retail store. Shoplifters will attempt to conceal items and leave the store without paying for them. Commonly shoplifted items include clothing, electronics, and pharmaceuticals. 
  • Shoplifting is a serious problem for retailers due to the high cost of stolen merchandise. In 2018, shoplifting cost U.S. retailers over $37 billion. In addition to financial losses, retail thefts also result in damaged reputations. 
  • Customers will often avoid retailers with high levels of theft, impacting sales and brand recognition. Beyond financial losses and damaged reputations, shoplifting poses a safety risk for store employees and customers.
  •  In order to conceal items, shoplifters will often attempt to enter and exit stores without paying for items. This leaves them in possession of stolen items, which can result in confrontations with security personnel and law enforcement.

Walmart’s Security Measures

  1. As one of the most targeted retailers in the U.S., Walmart has taken steps to strengthen security measures and reduce the number of shoplifting incidents. Walmart’s commitment to loss prevention is reflected in the company’s slogan: “Save Money. 
  1. Live Better.” With major annual losses of over $10 billion, shoplifting remains a priority for Walmart’s security team. Findings from the National Retail Security Survey suggest that Walmart is not alone in prioritizing shoplifting reduction. 
  1. Since the survey began, shoplifting has consistently remained the top concern for security managers at U.S. retail locations. When it comes to tracking shoplifting, Walmart employs a variety of security measures.
  1. In addition to security personnel, sophisticated surveillance technology, and plainclothes security officers, Walmart also uses Electronic Article Surveillance (EAS) devices to detect shoplifting. EAS is a type of technology used in retail locations to detect and deter shoplifting. EAS devices are commonly used to prevent theft at the retail level.

Surveillance Technology

  • Surveillance technology has become an indispensable tool for loss prevention departments across the world. Retailers use security cameras to monitor store activity and identify potential theft cases. Retailers are legally required to inform customers that they are being recorded. Typically, signs will be posted near the entrance and exit of a store, warning of video surveillance. 
  • Walmart is no different. The company employs a variety of video surveillance techniques to identify potential shoplifting incidents. Most Walmart stores are equipped with hundreds of security cameras. 
  • While cameras are legally required to record activities in public areas, video recordings can also be used to identify theft cases. Video recording can be used to capture the actions of shoplifters and is helpful in identifying suspects. 
  • Walmart uses a variety of security cameras including – Closed-circuit television cameras (CCTV) – Used in all areas of the store, these cameras record activities in real-time. 
  •  Indoor security cameras – Used to track activity in customer service areas and supply rooms. – Outdoor security cameras – Used to monitor the parking lot, loading areas, and other outdoor areas.

Plainclothes Security

  1. In addition to cameras and security personnel, many Walmart locations employ plainclothes security officers. EAS devices can be used to detect shoplifting but cannot physically apprehend suspects. 
  1. To address this gap, Walmart has employed plainclothes security officers in many stores. Plainclothes security officers are typically positioned in high-risk areas such as the electronics department and automotive department.
  1. Plainclothes security officers are often positioned near the exits of a store, monitoring customer activities and looking for potential shoplifters. When they identify a suspicious customer, they will discreetly follow the customer out of the store and attempt to detain them.
  1. A second employee will then approach the customer and explain they have been observed attempting to leave the store with merchandise that has not been paid for. In some cases, plainclothes security officers may pretend to be customers.

How Shoplifters Are Caught? 

  • Beyond wireless EAS devices and surveillance technologies, shoplifters are often caught by store employees. Store employees are positioned throughout the store and will routinely scan shelves for missing items. 
  • When employees discover missing items, they will scold the customer and attempt to recover the merchandise. In some cases, store employees will confiscate goods and report the incident to management. In addition to employee vigilance, Walmart has also introduced a “mystery shopper” program. 
  • Mystery shoppers are hired employees who attempt to shoplift items in stores. The goal of the mystery shopper program is to test employee vigilance and detect potential weak points in security protocol.

Implementing Loss Prevention Techniques

  1. In addition to increased surveillance and enforcement, Walmart has implemented a number of loss prevention measures to strengthen loss prevention efforts and reduce shoplifting incidents.
  1. Open communication – Walmart’s security team regularly conducts meetings with store managers to discuss EAS data and shoplifting incidents. During these meetings, managers will be informed of the number of items that were removed from inventory due to shoplifting. Managers will also be provided with tips for reducing losses and detecting potential theft cases. 
  1. Training for employees – Walmart requires all employees to complete basic theft prevention training. This training will cover tips for reducing theft and detecting suspicious activity. Employees will also be informed of the potential consequences of theft. Employees caught stealing merchandise or attempting to steal merchandise face disciplinary action including termination. 
  1. Use of software – Retail loss prevention teams have shifted from paper-based methods to automated software. Walmart has utilized software solutions to monitor EAS devices, track inventory, and record suspicious activity. Some software solutions, such as Signify Retail, can be used to prevent and detect shoplifting.

Walmart’s Anti-Shoplifting Strategies

  • Beyond standard loss prevention techniques, Walmart has also taken steps to prevent shoplifting at the legislative level. In 2018, Walmart was involved in a campaign to strengthen anti-shoplifting laws. The Retail Theft Reduction Act would increase the maximum jail time for shoplifting from one year to 16 months for first-time offenders.
  • The legislation would also increase fines and the number of hours required for offenders to perform community service. The proposed legislation received criticism for its perceived targeting of minorities. 
  • Opponents of the legislation claimed that statistics showed a disproportional targeting of minorities. Walmart has since withdrawn from the campaign but continues to strengthen internal shoplifting initiatives.


Walmart is a large-scale retailer with a significant focus on loss prevention and reduction. From cameras to plainclothes security officers, Walmart employs a variety of techniques to identify and apprehend shoplifters. The Retail Theft Reduction Act is receiving criticism for its perceived targeting of minorities. Walmart has withdrawn from the campaign but continues to strengthen internal initiatives and reduce theft through methods such as loss prevention training and the use of automated software.

Cindy Coleman
Cindy Coleman is a health writer who loves to share her knowledge of living a healthy lifestyle. She has been published in many online and print publications, and she is always looking for new ways to help people improve their health. Cindy is a firm believer in the saying "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure," and she hopes to help as many people as possible live long, healthy lives.